Thursday, April 13, 2006

Fran O'Brien's Needs Our Help!

UPDATE: Found this information at Fuzzilicious Thinking:
Andi's World points us to information that clarifies the lease situation. As we already know from the emails Greyhawk posted, Fran's is not going willingly. Local media in DC have picked up the story:
A two-year tradition for wounded war vets is about to go by the wayside. A downtown DC steak house that’s catered to injured troops every Friday night is about to close.

Fran O’Brien’s landlord is forcing out the steakhouse of the same name.

“We're not feeling very good about leaving and especially the Friday night dinner,” O’Brien said.
The short article and video confirm that the restaurant is being forced out, and though there are attempts to arrange something similar to the now-traditional "Friday Night at Fran's," it's very much up in the air.

I hesitate to make assumptions, but it's appearing more and more that Hilton has made a very poor business decision based on surface-level analysis of profit/loss (as Lex has theorized). And it's also becoming clearer that they have treated Fran O'Brien's very shabbily, possibly to the point of not negotiating in good faith. One email sent to Hilton sums it up pretty well:
All I ask is that you deal with the owners openly and honestly, not dissemble, lead them on, and then hit them with a two week eviction notice.
Apparently that has been too much to ask in this case.


For those who live in and around the D.C. area, you are no doubt familiar with the restaurant Fran O'Brien's owned by Marty O'Brien and Hal Koster (a Vietnam Vet). This is a restaurant located in the Capital Hilton where every Friday night is set aside for veterans and their families and they eat and drink for free. The place is packed and most of the veterans are still recuperating at Walter Reed so Friday nights are a bit of normalcy for these guys and gals whose world has turned upside-down by injuries sustained while serving our country.

No doubt even if you don't live in the area, you've heard about Fran O'Brien's through any number of stories that have been done about the restaurant on various news agencies or talk or radio shows. They do such a service and now it looks as though they will be homeless. After trying to find out about their lease for the last five months, they have finally received not a renewal, but an eviction notice. They are to vacate the location by April 31st! The Hilton Corp. claims it is due to liability issues, but instead of trying to bring the location to A.D.A. code, the Hilton Corp. is just getting rid of "the problem".

Marty and Hal need our help. For over six months they have been asking the Hilton Management for the terms for renewal of their lease. For over 5 months they were told not to worry they would have the renewal lease in a few weeks. About a month ago the Hilton folks stopped responding to their emails and voice messages for a status report and last week Hal and Marty received a one page eviction notice. No explanation was given. We suspect that at least part of the reason is the Friday night dinner Hal and Marty have been hosting for the last two and a half years. It may be that the Hilton folks are concerned about the increased liability of having so many severely injured and disabled soldiers in their basement each Friday (several have taken falls on the steep stairs at the entrance to Fran's (but no law suits or problems have ensued). It may be that there is very limited and problematic wheelchair access to the restaurant (although no ADA complaints have been filed). The truth is that we don't know for sure but what we do know is that this is unfair. Unless we can change the minds of the folks at the Hilton Hotel Fran's will be out of business on May 1st and we will not have any place to hold our Friday night dinner for the injured soldiers and marines of Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospitals. If you are so inclined I would like to ask you to call and/or email the following two officials at the Hilton and voice your support for Hal and Marty and express your concern for the reasoning behind this seemingly arbitrary decision. Please call them tomorrow or Friday and feel free to share this with anyone else who might be willing to call.

Here are the people to call:

*Dan Boyle (212) 838-1558

Brian Kellaher (202) 393-1000*
Mudville Gazette has posted a few personal personal accounts as well as links from multiple others. Please do what you can to help save Fran O'Brien's for the vets it's the least we can do to show our appreciation for them! (not to mention helping out some awesome people keep their "place" in D.C.)

Giant hat tip to THIRDWAVEDAVE

Tags: military, veterans, Fran O'Briens

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